Contents of this issue:
  • Senate considers plan to pool public school health insurance
  • Survey: Parents losing confidence in Michigan public schools
  • Ann Arbor teachers create video to raise money for union PAC
  • Parents want businesses to support education
  • Shelby schools pink slip 20 teachers
  • Win an iPod; Map: Does your district competitively contract?

LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate is examining a plan that would allow public schools and local governments to pool their health benefits and save about 8 percent on insurance costs in the first year, according to Booth Newspapers.

Supporters say this would save money for school districts, while not affecting collective bargaining agreements or the level of coverage a district offers its employees. Under the plan, employers would be required to obtain four bids for insurance plans, Booth Newspapers reported.

The plan is opposed by the Michigan Education Special Services Association, a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association, a school employees union. MESSA argues the legislation will hurt its business model by allowing the release of insurance claims information. The plan has gained the support of the Michigan AFL-CIO and the Michigan Federation of Teachers, however, which said having larger pools will lower financial risk for districts and local government units, thereby reducing costs.

Booth Newspapers, "Senate plan would pool health insurance coverage," April 19, 2007 7250.xml&storylist=mibusiness

Michigan Education Digest, "Insurance sold by MESSA a major issue in metro Detroit, state," April 3, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "School districts report saving money in insurance pool," Feb. 23, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Boards and Teachers Should Address Their Own Insurance Issues," Feb. 15, 2007

DETROIT — The percentage of parents expressing confidence in Michigan's public schools decreased and the percentage of parents taking advantage of alternative educational options has increased in the last two years, according to a survey conducted by The Detroit News, Channel 7, the Skillman Foundation and an organization called "Your Child."

In March 2005, 90 percent of parents were "confident" in public schools, compared to only 84 percent now. Also, 12 percent of parents said they home-school or send their children to charter public schools, compared to 3 percent in 2005. Enrollment in charter schools grew from 19,053 students in 1997-98 to 91,567 in 2005-06, The News reported.

Michele Grimble decided to home-school her children three years ago after officials at the school her son was assigned to recommended that he be put in special education classes. She said her children are getting more from home-schooling than they would have from public schools, according to The News.

"I would not go back and change for anything," Grimble told The News. "They are getting opportunities here at home that they would never get in public school."

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said education officials are working to improve schools by increasing flexibility, but said parents may be concerned that the schools are not meeting the standards for today's world.

"A slight decline in that level of confidence may well reflect the feeling that our schools must meet the needs of today's economy and today's students," Flanagan told The News.

The Detroit News, "Trust in public education falls," April 18, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "At home at Delta College: Delta College, home-school families see advantages in joint program," Feb. 23, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "State charter schools see enrollment increases," March. 7, 2006

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Several Ann Arbor school district teachers, an administrator and school board member created a homemade movie to raise money for the Ann Arbor Education Association, according to The Ann Arbor News.

The video, titled "PACho Libre," is a play on the film "Nacho Libre" and puts an emphasis on the union's political action committee. In the film, a teacher battles against a state legislator over funding for education. Sixth grade teacher Brit Satchwell has distributed the movie to Ann Arbor schools and is hoping to raise $30,000 in a fundraiser for the AAEA PAC, The News reported. Several individuals appear in the film calling themselves "PACho Libre," including those who identify themselves with specific public schools. Michigan Education Association Executive Director Luigi Battaglieri and AAEA President Karen Cross also appear in the film.

Making the villain a state legislator draws attention to the real problem, Satchwell told The News. "It all goes back to the source of it and tries to encourage people to become active in fighting for education funding."

Matt Resch, a spokesman for Rep. Craig DeRoche, believes this film is poking fun at the wrong people.

"In the last 10 to 12 years since Proposal A was passed, education funding has gone nowhere but up," Resch told The News. "The best way to get well-educated students is to have well-qualified teachers."

The Ann Arbor News, "Fight for education, video says," April 13, 2007

Ann Arbor Education Association, "PACho Libre," April 1, 2007 (WARNING: EXPLICIT CONTENT)

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Paycheck Protection: Political Contributions," Feb. 28, 2007

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "School Budgets: A Crisis of Management, Not Finance," Feb. 11, 2005

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Union Political Involvement," Dec. 15, 2001

DETROIT — A survey conducted by The Detroit News, Channel 7, the Skillman Foundation and an organization called "Your Child" found that parents generally believe businesses should have a role in education, but only one-third think they are doing an adequate job, according to The Detroit News.

In the Detroit area, schools and businesses work together often. ArvinMeritor, an auto supplier next to Southwestern High School, often assists the school's robotics team, The News reported.

Tracye Frazier said she thinks businesses should be involved in education as long as it isn't concerning curriculum.

"The businesses are not as involved as they should be, but they are probably not invited in enough," Frazier told The News.

The Detroit News, "Parents want businesses to aid schools," April 20, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Profit has a role in public schools," Feb. 23, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Private firm helps Battle Creek schools cut energy costs," July 19, 2006

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible School Districts," Dec. 3, 2002

SHELBY, Mich. — The Shelby Public Schools has notified 20 of its teachers that they may be laid off, and is expecting three teachers to lose their job, according to the Oceana Herald-Journal.

Superintendent Dana McGrew is including the money saved from those layoffs in the district's budget for 2007-2008 and is basing anticipated funding on numbers from the count day in February. There are currently no administrative lay offs planned for this school year, the Herald-Journal reported. According to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's most recent privatization survey, Shelby Public Schools did not competitively contract for non-instructional services in 2006.

Oceana Herald-Journal, "20 Shelby teachers will get 'pink slips,' April 19, 2007

Michigan Education Report, "Map: School contracting continues to grow," Feb. 23, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Competitive contracting popular in Port Huron area," March 20, 2007

Michigan Education Digest, "Saginaw schools consider staff layoffs," April 11, 2006


MIDLAND, Mich. — The spring issue of Michigan Education Report offers a map illustrating which districts have taken advantage of competitive contracting. It can be accessed here:

Michigan Education Report is offering readers a chance to win an iPod when they comment on articles in its spring 2007 issue.

Comments can be made via e-mail about stories on the U.S. House Fellows program (, school district health benefits savings (, whether private employees in public schools provide the same quality of service as public employees in public schools ( and, a community college cooperating with home-school students ( and the role of profit in public schools ( Please visit for more information.

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of approximately 150,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Sarah Grether at

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